Friday 31 May 2013

The Anglo-Saxons...and King Canute - (Final) Part Nine

Ethelred "the Unready" 978-1016
...They came back when one Ethelred
Was ruler of this land.
It didn't take them very long
To gain the upper hand.

The king's tag - "the Unready" -
Is an ancient mistranslation*,
(Though he really wasn't well-prepared,
When Danes attacked our nation.)

Thus the efforts of the Danish
Were to very soon bear fruit.
One of them seized England's crown:
His name was King Canute.

To start with, he was rubbish,
But then, it's understood,
Discovered Christianity
And did a lot of good.

King Cnut (Canute) 1016-1035
His achievements may, for many,
All now seem a little hazy,
And for most who can recall him,
It's for doing something crazy.

His advisors, wanting favour,
Said, "You're mighty and you're strong:
You surely can command the sea."
He sought to prove them wrong.

He set off to the seaside
With his sycophantic pack.
He sat just at the water's edge
And told the waves, "Go back!"

The advisors learnt a lesson
They were never to forget.
The tide advanced towards the king,
Whose feet got very wet.

In all, three Danes ruled England
But could not fail to ignore,
Trouble in their homeland.
Anglo-Saxons reigned thrice more.

A turning point was looming,
And Hastings was its name.
The Normans conquered England.
Things would never be the same.

* Unraed means "bad counsel" in Old English

Thursday 30 May 2013

The Anglo-Saxons, Celts and Vikings - Part Eight

When Northern Europeans
Had come for their new starts,
They'd spread themselves about a bit,
And lived in many parts.

Wessex and East Anglia,
Northumbria as well,
Plus Mercia (the Midlands),
Are where they chose to dwell.

These and other kingdoms
Were separate...distinct,
And not till the tenth century,
Were seven parts all linked.

A unified new nation thus
Into existence came,
And the Angle tribe from Europe,
To England lent its name.

For eighty years or so post Alf,
The Danes were kept at bay,
But the peace, it was uneasy,
For they hadn't gone away...

Tuesday 28 May 2013

The Anglo-Saxons...and Alfred the Great - Part Seven

... A noble King of Wessex,
A warrior with brains,
Was especially successful,
In warding off the Danes.

He fought battles...built defences...
All in all was very thorough.
(His fortresses were known as "burths",
From which comes our word "borough").

This king was known as Alfred,
His epithet "The Great".
His abilities went far beyond
Protection of the state.

He published and enforced new laws,
Which helped the population;
Was inventor...scholar...architect,
And keen on education.

But not for such important stuff
His place in history's earned:
He's equally remembered
For the baking that he burned.

It's said he once took refuge
With a peasant. She said, "Now,
Please watch what's in the oven,
As I'm off to milk the cow."

She clearly hadn't recognized
Her sovereign lord and master
Who, preoccupied, for got his task,
The cakes were a disaster.

The Anglo-Saxons, Celts and Vikings - Part Six

...That Holy Island, Lindisfarne,
In 793,
Was raided by some Norsemen
From across the grey North Sea.

The destruction was outrageous,
And explains, in part at least,
The Viking's reputation
As a dirty savage beast.

Yes, the Vikings rowed in longships
Which had special narrow hulls,
But they didn't wear horned helmets,
And they didn't drink from skulls.

They worshipped lots of deities,
Were pagan, so to speak,
But they knew of engineering,
And they took baths once a week.

In fact, they were quite cultured,
But one thing's very clear.
They attacked and they invaded,

Monday 27 May 2013

The Anglo-Saxons, Celts and Vikings - Part Five

St Aidan
...A young monk known as Aidan
Then ventured to insist,
"Be patient and try good news first,
And soon they won't resist."

Lindisfarne bcame his base,
(An island at high tide),
Aidan's very patient tactics
Won folk over to his side.

Though Rome's power had diminished,
It hadn't stopped the Pope
From sending Saint Augustine
To England, in the hope

That, unto the true religion,
The English would assent.
Augustine's task proved easy
With King Aethelburt of Kent.
St Augustine
Beyond, folk proved resistant...
Liked the pagan gods they'd known...

But in time the new faith set down roots
From seeds that had been sown.

Two types of Christianity
Thus existed in the land:
The Celtic one from Ireland
And the Romans' Latin brand.

A synod held in Whitby
The differences debated.
Columba's fans were gutted.
Rome's proponents were elated.

The population's hearts and minds
Weren't quite won over yet.
But just as faith was gaining ground,
There came another threat...

Sunday 26 May 2013

The Anglo-Saxons, Celts and Vikings - Part Four

...Kintyre was where they landed,
(Though it wasn't called that then),
And the island of Iona
Was given to these men.

It became a major centre
Of religion and of learning:
The monks then travelled further east,
To spread the words all yearning.

The inhabitants of Pictland
Were a very hostile shower,
But were pretty soon persuaded
By these monks' God, and His power.

The ruler of Northumbria,
When exiled as a youth,
Had become a Christian convert
And now longed to spread the truth.

The time he'd spent amongst the Gaels
Led Oswald to request
A mission from Iona,
But it has to be confessed,

The first chap (Bishop Corman),
Went home because he'd failed.
"Northumbrians are stubborn.
It just can't be done," he wailed...

Saturday 25 May 2013

Police ban cheese chase

In a place known as Brockham, for two hundred years,
An annual event they would hold.
Folk give chase to a large Double Gloucester,
On an incline down which it's been rolled.

This is typically English behaviour,
I.e. harmless, eccentric and fun.
But the police say the innocent practice
Is unsafe, and cannot now be done.

What is more, they have upset a granny -
The supplier of cheese for this game.
They say that if anyone's injured,
They would hold this poor lady to blame.

The event may well happen regardless.
There are worse ways of getting a thrill
Than to breathe the fresh air in the springtime,
As one's stampeding down Cooper's Hill.

There must be real criminals out there,
Wrong-doers who need to be caught.
When the very last one has been captured,
Only then might police meddle with sport.

Till that day, Gran should keep the cheese churning,
And know that all sane folk would back her.
Good luck, if you're taking a part in this chase,
But watch out for the giant cream cracker.

Cooper's Hill, Brockham

Friday 24 May 2013

"Well behaved children welcome, the rest..."

(This is for Ergie and Steve, with whom we were out last night. Having seen, and been fascinated by, this sign at High Storrs School, Sheffield, they suggested I write a verse on the subject.)

"Well behaved children are welcome:
The rest will be made into pies."

We've a casserole dish at the ready,
And a cleaver to cut them to size.

If acquainted with Titus Andronicus,*
You may well be in for a treat.

Unless you've ensured they're brought up well,
It could be your sons that you'll eat.

*For those not familiar with Shakespeare's blood-thirsty play of this name, Titus Andronicus served up to Queen Tamora the heads of her two sons in a pie - an act of revenge.

The Anglo-Saxons, Celts and Vikings - Part Three

St Patrick
(An excursion to Ireland)

The country known as Ireland
Had been well beyond Rome's reach.
From Cornwall, Patrick went there
With a message he must teach.

Though the Irish were unruly,
Though they viewed him with suspicion,
He - in teaching Christianity -
Succeeded in his mission.

So Patrick (Ireland's patron saint)
Now steady progress makes
And, to boot, it's also rumoured
That he rid the land of snakes.

From very small beginnings
St Columba
A monastic movement spread,
And the Irish, far from primitive,
Were cultured now instead.

Some monks, one named Columba,
Across the sea did roam,
To where Irish Gaels and Scoti*
Had already made their home...

(*Scotland got its name from an Irish tribe)

Benvenuta Italia!

Thursday 23 May 2013

The Anglo-Saxons, Celts and Vikings - Part Two

...Our country had been civilized
Whilst Roman troops were here,
But that orderly existence
Was to quickly disappear.

The Romans had been Christians,
Were civilzed and bright.
Now pagan ways returned once more.
Folk couldn't read and write.

This chapter of our history
That you're meeting on these pages,
Has sometimes been referred to
As the darkest of Dark Ages.

We'll leave these people briefly,
Suspended in their time,
And return to see what happened
A bit later in this rhyme...

Wednesday 22 May 2013

The Anglo-Saxons, Celts and Vikings - Part One

(This blog covers British history from about 410AD to 1066. It will be interrupted if anything of topical interest crops up whilst it is being serialized.)

Towards the end of Roman rule
Germanic tribes first landed.
Some say they came peaceably,
And others say mob-handed.

There were Angles, Jutes and Saxons,
Both accounts may well be right:
The majority weren't hostile,
Whereas others came to fight.

The natives were bewildered,
And resisted where they could,
But they weren't equipped for battle,
So it didn't do much good.

The homelands of these strangers
Faced a constant flooding threat:
It's difficult to grow things
When the soil is very wet.

For easier conditions,
Is all that most were wishing.
In their new home they now settled down
To farming and to fishing...

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Where are you now Margaret Thatcher?

To some, she is a heroine -
Courageous, focussed, driven.
To others, she's a villain
Who will never be forgiven.

And thus she is like Marmite,
Which one either loves or hates.
Did she plunge to the inferno,
Or pass through the Pearly Gates?

Is she learning how to play the harp,
Or shovelling hot coals?
Has she challenged The Almighty
For the leadership of souls?

No one knows what happens,
When we're dead and laid to rest,
Except we're kept as memories,
By those who love us best.

Sunday 19 May 2013

A true story from the other end of the age spectrum

Some elderly friends went to Thailand,
Where the wife got an eczema-type rash.
"There's a very wise man who makes medicine,"
Said the barman, "but pay him in cash."

He worked from a hut in a village;
Had lotions and potions galore.
The cream that he sold was effective.
Florrie's rash very soon was no more.

Their pharmacist friends they met later,
Knew the miracle man well enough.
It seemed he could cure almost anything,
And he used only natural stuff.

(On a previous trip they'd bought tablets:
To analyze these they had tried.
But one, very tiny, component,
Could not be identified).

Florrie, impressed, resumed mulling
About something that preyed on her mind.
Geoff needed a form of Viagra,
For their love-life had sadly declined.

His desire for his wife hadn't left him.
The urge hadn't gone, so to speak.
The spirit was still very willing,
But the flesh was decidedly weak.

They purchased one very large capsule,
To be swallowed on top of some food.
They went to their room, put on music,
Lit a candle, to get in the mood.

Said Geoff, "I feel very peculiar.
Just quite how, I can't possibly tell."
They looked at his feet and they noticed
That his ankles had started to swell.

His calves, they got bigger and bigger,
The expansion reached up to his thighs.
The process was slow but relentless,
Legs stiffened and doubled in size.

Where it mattered, though, nothing was stirring.
Flo had an idea what to do.
Geoff told her, "I know what you're thinking,
But believe me, I'm NOT taking two!"

(And on the same subject, there's a joke circulating at the moment about the invention of Viagra teabags. They don't help your love-life, but they do stop your biscuits going soft.)

Saturday 18 May 2013

"PolyPants" hide butt cracks

The products made by Polycell
I'd gladly recommend.
As a DIY fanatic
They have long since been my friend.

My favourite is their "One Fill",
A kind of whipped up mousse.
It's not messy, covers great big holes,
Is very easy-use.

The company is soon to launch
A filla spray that's quicker,
And - already on the market -
Is their "hide the bum crack" knicker.

A survey's proved that bottoms,
When displayed, are in bad taste.
So these "PolyPants" will fit you
Most securely round the waist.

Polycell would rid the world
Of all unsightly gaps,
And thus devised these garments,
Both for women and for chaps.

Low slung jeans and trousers
Can reveal those backside nicks.
Now all you will be seeing
Are iconic "done right" ticks.

What refinements could be added
By developmental geeks?
There's a product known as "Damp Seal",
Which can cope with minor leaks...

(Hello to The Maldives!)

Wednesday 15 May 2013

The "no need for a garden" BBQ is invented

My husband likes the summer,
Some days, the sun might show,
But he dreads that one suggestion,
Which makes him think, "Please, no!"

The hint of decent weather
Prompts an, "I know what we'll do.
We'll dig the paper plates out -
And we'll have a barbecue!"

The very mention of that word
Can make him start to quake.
I can see his brain cogs working
On excuses we might make.

There's a sick friend we must visit?
And she lives up in Dundee?
But our would-be hosts are cunning,
And already checked we're free.

He's averse to blackened sausages,
("Inside they are not cooked"),
And those "odd things stuck on skewers"
Which have yet to get him hooked.

He dislikes "trendy" salads,
(And every type of dressing),
Plus any sort of mixture,
Whose contents have you guessing.

But we stand there with brave faces,
Attempting not to choke,
As we find ourselves down-wind of all that
"Is it lit yet?" smoke...

Juggle plates and forks and napkins...
Live in fear of something spilling...
A man will sport an apron,
For it's he who does the grilling.

People try not to look hungry,
As at last the charcoal's "caught",
But the food will take much longer
Than anybody thought.

There's a jug of something "with a kick",
(It's very often pink),
And the glasses' rims are frosted,
(To disguise that which we drink?)

Those without a garden
Couldn't offer these delights,
But someone had the good idea
Of setting this to rights.

So if you have a balcony,
Or even just a wall,
The invention will make certain
That you don't miss out at all.

Two sausages, two burgers
Can be fitted on its tray,
So the fun of the occasion
Could be made to last all day.

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Another true "facts of life" tale

We took both the children to Hardwick.
Young Ella was then not quite three.
We had packed up a wonderful picnic,
Which we ate sitting under a tree.

For a while, she'd been asking us questions,
Which we'd answered - quite "matter of fact".
She had noted her brother's "appendage",
That gadget which all ladies lacked.

She was mulling the issue of gender,
She wanted it clear in her head,
And thus, as we packed up our basket,
Came the moment that parents must dread.

Our tree now was sheltering locals:
It had started to rain and was chilly.
"Are you a man?" she asked one chap,
And then added, "Have you got a willy?"

There was one of those "stunned silence" moments,
When the whole of the world seems to freeze.
I asked, "Does your puppy like apple?"
And I thought, "Get me out of here please!"

(And hello to viewers in Panama!)

Monday 13 May 2013

What can have happened to Tiddles?

Come on in, Maud darling.
Don't stand outside my dear.
I'm sorry I'm distracted,
That I'm really not quite "here".

Last week, our dearest Tiddles
Was lost - we searched all round -
And my hopes have quite diminished
That he'll turn up safe and sound.

I know he made you sneeze a bit,
That kitties aren't your "scene",
But still, I hope you'll understand
How frantic I have been.

He was so cute and playful,
His antics always cheered.
It's hard to think the creature
Has, quite simply, disappeared.

Remember when you last called round?
That wool of yours he chased!
Then wouldn't leave your legs alone,
(Did you get your tights replaced?)

He really seemed to like you -
Such a friendly little chap -
He wouldn't mean to jolt your arm...
Spill coffee in your lap.

Forgive me dear - I ramble on!
I'll take your coat. Come through!
I like your fetching outfit -
That fur collar - is it new?

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Sunday 12 May 2013

The world of Freddie

I've found another "'pider" web.
You'll have to come and see.
I'll prod this rotten apple
That has fallen from the tree.

This soil looks very tempting -
I'll put some in my pocket.
The dishwasher has failed to work.
(It's switched off at the socket).

There's a "t'actor", there's a digger,
There's a "nee-naw" zooming by.
There's a leaf upon the pavement,
There's a plane up in the sky.

There's cat poo in the rockery,
A daisy on the lawn,
                                         There's the cover of a brand new book
                                         Just asking to be torn.

With a handful of baked bean juice,
My hair I will anoint.
They'll try to wipe it off again,
Have sadly missed the point.

And every time I pass it,
My little hands just itch
To push and pull and twiddle
That intriguing dimmer switch.

I experiment with yoghurt,
Which I've tipped out of the dish,
And wonder what would happen
If I fed some to the fish?

I've learnt (because I've tried it)
That I cannot climb a wall.
But the stairs would be so easy
If they'd let me in the hall.

The world is all excitment,
Mysterious and new.
I need to check out everything,
Because I'm only two.

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Friday 10 May 2013

Lady aged 106 finds true love - at last

Our heroine's Edwardian,
From times that now seem weird.
The Great War's yet to happen.
TV's not yet appeared.

We reach the Swinging Sixties
When the Beatles' songs were sung.
Now, by anybody's standards,
The lady's far from young.

She never did get married,
Thought romance she'd never know.
She went into a care home;
Cupid loaded up his bow....

She met a man called Gavin:
He's the love now of her life,
But she clearly isn't planning
To become her sweetheart's wife.

She knows that he adores her,
Will be there through thick and thin,
But has figured that it's better
To simply live in sin.

So to single thirty-somethings,
The advice must be "sit tight":
If you're patient and wait long enough
You'll find your "Mr Right".

(Though, to follow Marj's pattern,
It is only fair to warn:
Look in prams and buggies,
For he's only just been born!)

Marjorie Hemmerde (106) and Gavin Crawford (73) met and fell in love in a Melbourne care home.
(And a welcome to viewers in Bulgaria and Switzerland)

Thursday 9 May 2013

Women in underwear run through Basel

How to best promote our shop?
A bright idea then flickers:
"Get women running through the streets,
In just their bras and knickers.

The prize will be a voucher
To exchange for trendy clothes,
For which women will do anything,
As everybody knows."

The competition's organized,
The city dash is staged,
Then enter certain feminists
All "PC" and enraged.

"It's primitive. It's sexist,"
Is some local MP's speech.
(Has she never worn bikinis
On a sunny Spanish beach?

Does she lack a sense of humour?
Does she lack a sense of fun?)
We should try it here in Sheffield:
At sixty-two, I'd run!

And Basel should be seeking now
To right "unequal" wrongs,
And hold another contest
For its menfolk, wearing thongs.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

The Great Fire of London - (Final) Part Four

People left (as sane folk would),
Taking with them what they could.
As via the Thames escapes were made,
The boatmen did a roaring trade.
Looters prowled, to try to find
Things of value, left behind.

Samuel Pepys informed the king,
And then recorded everything:
What people did, all matters fiery
Were noted down in that man's diary.

Four days on, the wind had dropped.
The fire-breaks worked; the flames were stopped.
A population, devastated,
Returned to find their homes cremated.

It's claimed that half a dozen died:
Just six, who were identified.
Not everyone was fit to run:
What could the sick and weak have done?
It's likely unnamed dozens must
Have been reduced to ash and dust,
In time to form a human silt
On which the modern London's built.

Samuel Pepys

Monday 6 May 2013

The Great Fire of London - Part Three

...not far from Pudding Lane were docks,
And warehouses, with brimming stocks.
As winter neared, these all would hold
Supplies to beat the coming cold.

Textiles, coal, imported brandy
(For warmth in different ways all handy),
Tobacco, wood, molasses, paper,
Ignited by a giant taper.

To fight infernos, not that much:
No proper fire brigade as such.
Men wuth pumps and rigid hoses
Can't meet the challenge this fire poses.
And though they surely did their best,
The flames moved onwards, north and west....
The Monument, Pudding Lane, London EC3

Sunday 5 May 2013

The Great Fire of London - Part Two

.Because, as all of London slept,
A spark from 'neath his oven lept.
(The maid, they say, must take the blame
For causing that initial flame).

His premises were soon alight,
And tongues of brightness licked the night.
There'd been no rain all summer long,
Winds from the east raged fresh and strong.

As Tom and all his household fled,
The fire to nearby houses spread.
The City's dry and cobbled maze
Was very quickly all ablaze.

Though was it Tom's fault? Some think not.
They say it was a foreign plot,
Not started by a single flare
But several other fires elsewhere.....

Saturday 4 May 2013

WI in fancy dress gaffe

(Just seen the news item on this)

Despite the cheeky calendar,
The Women's Institute
Isn't noted for frivolity
But, rather, bottled fruit.

They'd booked a noted speaker,
On "Piracy" the talk.
They expected tales of Bluebeard...
Of planks that men must walk...

Of robbing Spanish treasure ships...
Of fights with sword and gun,
Then someone thought of dressing up:
It sounded like good fun.

With parrots on their shoulders,
With patches on their eyes
And, wearing skull and crossbones hats,
They turned up in disguise.

But it isn't Captain Hook and co
On which their guest now speaks:
He'd been captured by Somalians
And held for several weeks.

He talks of his experience,
His worries and his fear,
And the ladies know the costumes
Hadn't been a good idea.

They apologized profusely
For their somewhat tactless blunder.
Will their research in the future
Be improved, one may well wonder?

(The all-time very favourite joke
Of younger daughter Star,
Is "Why are pirates, pirates?
The response, "Because they "Arrrgh"!")

The Great Fire of London - Part One (of 4)

Here are facts we ought to learn:
What fires must have, so they can burn.
They use the oxygen in air.
Without it, they just couldn't flare.

Fuel is also what they need:
Things that burn, on which to feed.
Wood, coal, oil - that sort of stuff -
Will burn if it gets hot enough.

Ignition is our final "must"
To make what can be burned combust.

Way back in 1666,
London wasn't built with bricks.
Timber-framed, by mud walls shrouded,
Homes were cramped and over-crowded.

By baking, Tom his living earned,
And certain things he'd long-since learned:
At close of trade he must remember
To damp down every glowing ember,
Extinguish every red hot speck,
But someone clearly didn't check.............

Friday 3 May 2013

Where are you Russia and Romania?

Southern Ireland has joined us,
And Canada too.
So folk in those countries,
A welcome to you.

Since I found those great stats
I have learned quite a lot,
And I now know from where
People visit this spot.

But how it all works
Is not easy to figure:
The numbers from Russia
Got bigger and bigger..

Then suddenly no one
From there came to view:
There's been no single visit
This past week or two.

But Romania's stats
Then began to improve.
Did a tribe with computers
Decide they would move?

As fast as they featured,
Now they too have gone,
And this week I am reading,
"Romania - none!"

Or was it one person
Who viewed many times?
Who whiled idle hours away
Reading these rhymes?

On a handful from China
Could always rely.
And from there, all the figures
Are suddenly high.

Such things are all relative
Please don't forget.
Though the audience grows,
We are not viral - yet!

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Cats in the garden

"Pussy cat, pussy cat,
Where have you been?"
"In other folk's gardens.
You know what I mean?"

I'm grateful to some
For the digging they do:
Where the soil's nice and soft
Is the best place to poo.

A favourite game
Always keeps me enchanted,
And that's to destroy
All the things they've just planted.

Late springtime arrives
With its own special treat.
I love baby birds:
They're delicious to eat.

People try to deter me,
But keep on forgetting
That moggies on missions
Can cope with their netting.

There are gadgets emitting
A highly-pitched squeal.
Imagine, with those,
How unwelcome I feel.

I find tiger wee sprinkled -
Purr-lease spare me that.
I know it's a con

I continue, unfazed,
On my usual route,
Then return to my owners,
Who think I am cute.

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please don't forget about our Facebook page
(link on right) and please, most importantly,
share with others.
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